Review: Ignite your senses on a Bay of Fires walking tour in Tasmania
Tasmania may be our smallest state, but it is unsurpassed in terms of the stunning natural landscapes available to walkers. The vivid collage of colours and coastal ambience on this Bay of Fires walking tour will awaken your senses and leave you refreshed and revitalised.
Park Trek specialises in small group nature-based walking holidays throughout Australia. This four-day experience will immerse you in the stunning beauty of the Bay of Fires and Mount William National Park in northeastern Tasmania. You’ll explore the region on a series of walks with a knowledgeable guide, taking in secluded beaches and picturesque inlets. Transport, accommodation, most meals, guided walks and national park entry fees are included. Duration: 4 days/3 nights
Best price guarantee: If you find this tour elsewhere at a cheaper price, we will beat it by 10%. Some conditions apply. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book this tour with The Big Bus tour and travel guide.
The path is a swathe of pristine white sand edged by water that shades from pale turquoise to deep aquamarine.
Although the beach stretches ahead for several kilometres, apart from my five fellow guests and our guides there’s not another soul in sight. I could imagine this was a private island in the Maldives or the deserted shores of farthest Palawan, if it weren’t for the wind at our backs and the wallabies watching from the dunes.
It’s the first day of our Bay of Fires walking tour with Park Trek Walking Holidays in the northeastern corner of Tasmania. Following the 2.5-hour drive from our meeting point in Launceston, the walk begins at Top Camp in the Mount William National Park. We hug the coast, and over the course of four days round Cape Naturaliste, Stumpy’s Bay, Eddystone Point and Anson’s Bay, before ending our hike at The Gardens in the Bay of Fires Conservation Area.
If you like beaches, this is the walk for you, and if you don’t it isn’t — simple as that. The majority of our time is spent treading this white sand. Sometimes it’s packed firmly beneath our feet — those are the easy bits — and other times it forms a fine, shifting powder that tests the strength of our ankles and calves. The Tasman Sea is a constant presence. Our route leads southward, so the guides joke that we can’t get lost, as long as we keep the sea on our left.
While the style of scenery is fairly constant, variations in geography and changes in the weather create subtle differences between the four days. Day one is all glittering sea and white, white sand, and includes our first introduction to this area’s characteristic granite rocks with their coating of orange lichen. Wild weather across the state makes day two an epic of wind and whirling sand, interspersed with plenty of rock scrambles to focus the mind. On day three we encounter gorgeous, gleaming rock pools, shelly coves and smoothly sculpted boulders. Day four brings the quintessential Bay of Fires palette of bright orange and blue, bay after bay unfolding in glory.
Although beach walking dominates, we veer inland from time to time, either to see a specific landmark or to cut the corner off a difficult headland. We climb Mount William, locally dubbed ‘Bill’s Hill’ because it doesn’t actually reach the height threshold for mountains. At the top, kunzea flowers perfume the air with their sweet smell of honey, caramel and vanilla, and we enjoy far-reaching views over both sea and farmland. A visit to Eddystone Lighthouse is another deviation from the beach. Built in 1889 with a light elevation of 42 metres, the granite lighthouse is a towering monument to nineteenth-century engineering skills — and a reminder of how dangerous this coastline once was for shipping.
The short inland sections of the walk provide some of our best opportunities for experiencing the region’s diversity of wildlife. We pass a reed-fringed lagoon from which four black swans take flight, showing the white tips of their wings as they soar overhead. Beside a narrow heathland track our guide Nick spots a fat echidna, its spikes poking through a thick covering of fur that has evolved to keep out the Tasmanian cold. And where else in the world would you see ‘devil poo’ — evidence that the endangered Tasmanian devil still lives here.
There’s no camping on this guided walk. We return each afternoon to our base at Icena Farm, which provides pleasant holiday-house-style accommodation in a rural setting that’s also home to cows, sheep and some very funny turkeys. We make our own picnic lunches to take with us each day and eat our other meals (prepared by the guides) at a shared dining table. The guides also set out a generous antipasto spread to share in the lounge before dinner each night as we relax and swap impressions of the day.
This is a ‘vehicle-based’ rather than ‘pack-based’ trek, so we carry only light daypacks. The Park Trek van takes us each morning to resume our walk at or near where we stopped the day before. While the itinerary is essentially a through-walk from beginning to end, variations are possible. The route can be shortened in harsh weather, or an edited version offered to less able guests.
Scenically, the stars of the show are the orange lichen-covered rocks that contrast so strikingly with the blue sea. Many people think the Bay of Fires got its name from the fiery colours of the landscape. In fact, the explorer Tobias Furneaux, who passed this way in 1773, named the coastline for the many campfires he saw burning on the shore. Indigenous society once flourished here and we see its archaeological legacy in a 200-metre long midden not far from Boulder Point. The huge pile of oyster shells, many of them enormous, speaks of feasts gone by — tens of thousands of years of them, compared to which the European presence here is just the blink of an eye.
The midden, the lighthouse, the rocks and the carcasses of two beached whales are the big things we see on this walk, and they are all unforgettable. But in some ways it’s the little things that I’ll treasure more: tiny orchids spotted in the coastal heath, the tail drag marks of wallabies on the beach, sand plovers running so quickly over wet sand that they seem to be skating.
On the last day we encounter, for the first time, another group of walkers. We’re all comically indignant that anyone else would be on ‘our’ beach. This is how this Tasmanian coastline makes you feel — as if all this remote beauty is there just for you. When you walk it, you really come to know it, and this hike has been designed for total immersion in a unique environment that revitalises the senses.
Roslyn Jolly is a freelance travel writer whose work has appeared in Luxury Travel, Get Up & Go, The Sunday Telegraph and The Australian. In her former career as an English Literature academic, Roslyn studied and taught the work of great travel writers, such as Henry James, Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson, and became fascinated by the history of travel and tourism. Two years at school in Wales and three years at university in England allowed her to travel extensively in Europe and North America, which she continues to do.